Preparations for Winter on Mallorca

Autumn on Mallorca means preparing for the winter, when you live in the more-exposed areas of the countryside. In the past few days The Boss has climbed the ladder to swathe our two terrace canopies in bubble-wrap and tape, as protection from the worst of what winter may throw at us weather-wise.  Walk around some of the island’s resorts and you’ll see the more vulnerable exterior fixtures and fittings of hotels that are closed for the winter similarly covered. Our terraces look a bit sad, as a result, but we had to spend a lot of money recovering the canopies this year, so it’s all about protecting our investment against the elements.

Canopies under wraps

Canopies under wraps

We do have one small terrace that catches the sun and is sheltered from the north winds, where we keep a table and chairs throughout the winter. Unless it’s raining or very cold, we often have our mid-morning coffee here and sometimes lunch too. Today, despite the gloomiest of skies, we fired up the BBQ one last time this year (before The Boss tucks it away for winter) and had a leisurely lunch al fresco.

Pip – Fit to Pop

Our outdoor cats are also aware of the changing seasons. They stay closer to home and, in the morning and early evening, are all waiting at the front door of our home waiting to be fed. In summer they are grazers, coming to the terrace to eat when they feel like it but, at this time of year, their habits change.

This summer grazing habit of six of our cats resulted in a bit of a barrel-belly problem for Pip – our youngest cat (an adorable calico). As she stays close to the house most of the time, any food left uneaten by her cat companions was clearly too much of a temptation. She was either being plain greedy or just ‘clearing up’ any leftovers to be helpful.

Lip-lickingly good, those leftovers ...

Lip-lickingly good, those leftovers 

It’s hard to put a semi-feral cat on a diet – she could be eating things out in the wilderness that is our valley – but we’re doing our best. Pip is now having her meals separately from the other cats and, when they have finished eating, we’re removing their bowls. The cats have adjusted well to this – probably because eating for them at the moment is more about gaining winter weight for warmth, than grazing on a whim.

Be Prepared

On the subject of food, many seasonal restaurants are now closed until around Easter next year. With fewer tourists and so many places shuttered up (or swathed in plastic), a sense of the impending winter is in the air – although it’s still officially autumn and the air itself has been pretty mild some days (in the low 20s Celsius some days). The Boss – in the best Boy Scout tradition – has prepared us for what may come. He’s stocked up on logs for the stove and red wine for the rack. Winter? I guess we’re almost ready for it …

Jan Edwards Copyright 2016

Cats on Camera

The past few weeks have passed in a whirl and, although I have written several posts in my head about living in rural Mallorca, that was as far as it went. Perhaps the most frustrating of the recent events that have kept me away from writing what I wanted to was a problem importing photos into Adobe Lightroom – something I tried (and failed) to resolve (even with some helpful suggestions from friends) for three days.

It was hardly a major disaster in the great scheme of things, but annoying when I had captured an image that marked a significant milestone in the lives of our feline family. Thanks to a sainthood-deserving member of the Adobe customer support staff, the problem was finally resolved (after a few hours of on-screen chat and remedial action!).

Long-time readers of this blog will know about Pip, the tiny kitten that ‘arrived’ in our garden in September 2014. She has grown (and how!) into an adorable cat that’s full of fun, affection, and charm. It didn’t take her long to befriend two of the other cats in our feline family, Nibbles and Shorty, with whom she used to have fearless rough ‘n’ tumble play-fights on a regular basis when she was only a third of their size.

Pip has calmed down now and left those mad kittenhood days behind her. She eats with the rest of the gang and sometimes follows them down into the valley as they head off to their respective favourite spots for a snooze. But mostly she stays close to the house, sitting in the deep recess (the walls are 60cm thick) of our dining room window – a space she seems to have claimed as her own.

One of the Family

There’s never really been any animosity between Pip and the other cats, but Beamer – the alpha male – always ignored her, and would simply walk away if she approached him. He was such a good big brother to the other cats when their mother Jetta went AWOL, that I always hoped he would do more than just tolerate little Pip. And then, just before Lightroom went loopy, I spotted something that made my heart sing: Beamer had jumped into the window with Pip and was giving her a wash! Once she was cleaned to his satisfaction – and after a little reciprocal licking – they curled up and slept together for the best of the day.

The pictures wouldn’t win any photographic prizes, but they won a place in my heart. And in the story of Pip.

Two felines

“You need a good wash, young lady!”

A snuggle of appreciation.

A snuggle of appreciation.

Snooze is next on the agenda . . .

Snooze is next on the agenda . . .

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015 

Minstral our Birman Lives the Good Life in Mallorca

Beamer (left) checks out the fluffiest tale he's ever seen (on Minstral).

Beamer (left) checks out the fluffiest tale he’s ever seen (on Minstral)

Our beautiful Birman cat Minstral is now eighteen-and-a-half years old – an age which amazes the good folk working at our local veterinary practice. They often tell us that Mallorcan cats rarely live that long; we have noticed that many of them (particularly in the countryside) are either feral or left to their own devices. Certainly there are many dangers lurking out there – among them being shot, poisoned, or run over. Sadly we have a couple of little burial spots on our land to prove it.

Of course Minstral is not the only cat in our lives: we have seven ‘adopted’ now semi-feral cats (although it would be more accurate to say that we were the ones who were adopted). They live outdoors and spend a lot of time around close to the house – returning twice daily (as a group) to be fed.

Minstral was a ‘bonus’ we brought to Mallorca when we moved here in 2004. In September 2001 we had been to Sussex to see a distressed Maine Coon under foster care, with a view to adopting him. He was with a woman who fostered cats, but also bred Birmans. I’ll never forget her house: a fluffy Birman cat or kitten was on every horizontal surface. Big blue eyes stared at us from every direction. Gorgeous.

Smokey, the Maine Coon (aged six), immediately took to us and we took him home. And Minstral too (aged four). The fosterer said that the pair had become inseparable and thought we should have them both to save any separation issues Smokey could have. Well, I wasn’t going to refuse, so neither could The Boss. We sadly lost Smokey to lymphoma a few years after we moved to Mallorca, which led to concern that Minstral would pine for his old pal. Fortunately, plenty of love and affection from us and a fair dollop of feline ‘la dolce vita’ prevented that.

Minstral has been an indoor cat all of his life. We were told by the breeder that he had no road sense at all and it would be unwise to let him out alone. He’s never been very bothered about going out, except for the occasional supervised stroll into the garden to chew grass, or onto the front terrace to sniff a greeting to some of the outdoor cats.  There’s no animosity between him and the others; it looks like a mutual appreciation that he and they are different.

Our recent visit to the vet’s – for Minstral’s rabies jab and annual blood tests to check his kidney function – brought good news. Like many senior cats, his kidneys are not working as well as they used to. He’s been on a special diet for some 18 months and has a daily dose of a medication designed to alleviate the condition. His latest blood tests revealed that his kidney function had slightly improved . . . testament to the great treatment our vet’s in Manacor have always given our extended cat family.

We came home delighted with the news. And Minstral? He celebrated by nabbing the prime spot on the sofa, in front of the log burner. According to http://www.catyearschart.com, Minstral is now aged the equivalent of 88 human years. If and when I make it to 88, I’ll be doing that too . . .

Jan Edwards Copyright2015 

Life Behind Bars in Mallorca!

No, The Boss and I are not currently residing at His Majesty’s pleasure in what some people dub ‘the Palma Hilton’.  Neither am I pouring foaming pints of beer for British holidaymakers in a lively Magaluf bar. I’m referring to the iron window bars, known in Spanish as rejas.

They’re a common sight at the windows of houses in Spain and something that made an impression on me when I  saw them, quite a long time ago, during my first visit to the country that is now my home. At the time I thought it would be horrible to live with bars at the windows, but I’ve now become so used to these things that I now couldn’t imagine not having them. Presumably many others feel the same as these traditional features are still incorporated into many new properties.

Keeping Some Out . . . Others In

They are first and foremost a security feature, enabling windows to be left open for fresh air, with a degree of protection from anyone who may wish to enter the house without an invitation. They also help prevent unsupervised young children from falling out of a window (or teenagers from doing an unauthorised late-night exit through their bedroom window to meet friends!).

At one time, of course, many houses wouldn’t have had windows fitted with glass (which is still quite expensive on the island), so bars in the window space would have been essential as a security measure. We saw an example of this once when we stayed for a night in a townhouse in Pollensa: our bedroom window in this charming old property had shutters, but no glass! Thankfully it was a warm(ish) night . . .

Another Maintenance Job for the Property Owner

The downside of these things is that they do need to be painted from time to time to keep them looking good. And it’s a very fiddly job (and one that’s often bumped down the ‘to do’ list in our house as a result).  The upside – apart from the security benefits – is that property insurance companies may give a discount on premiums if bars are fitted.

For our cats too, there seems to be a feeling of safety sleeping behind the bars. Pip certainly seems to take advantage of a ‘protected’ place to snooze away the daylight hours. Her favourite window – the smallest in the house – is in our small guest suite. She’s actually the only one of our cats that can fit into it. No need for a ‘do not disturb’ sign here . . . unless I’m around with my Nikon.These bars are very good for resting one's feet on . . .

These bars are very good for resting one’s feet on . . .

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015

Writing Cats and Dogs . . .

My recent post ‘It’s a dog’s life on Mallorca‘ referred to an article I’d written about the Mallorca charity that rescues German Shepherds and other large dog breeds. If you’d like to read more about Dogs For U, the article has just been published in the online magazine Insiders Abroad.

Article about dog rescuers on Mallorca

Dogs For U in ‘Insiders Abroad’

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The editor – having read this blog – initially contacted me to write about our cats, but I felt that an article about Dogs For U would perhaps raise awareness of their tireless work for unwanted dogs. The magazine accepted the idea, but also wanted to publish a collage of my photos of our cats in the same issue, which was pet-themed. And this week our furry felines have their moment of fame . . .

Cat photos

Our cats – published in ‘Insiders Abroad’

 

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015

A Trio of Birthday Cats

Yesterday was the fourth birthday of three of our ‘glaring’ – the small community of cats that have made our finca in rural Mallorca their home. Jetta – a black cat that had ‘adopted’ us early in 2011 – had already produced a litter of four kittens at the end of March 2011. Two of those – Beamer and Dusty – are still with us.

Before we knew it, Jetta was pregnant again and this time there were five kittens produced on July 31st, 2011 – although it was some weeks before we had a glimpse of any of them. Her first nursery had been the old ruined casita on the other side of an old wall at the end of our field. For her next litter, she chose a different spot, but still close by, so that she could return to our place for her twice-daily meals and source of water, without leaving her little ones alone for long.

Of the second litter, we still have Nibbles, Chico, and Sweetie. Nibbles is very communicative and loves human company; one of his favourite activities is jumping onto a lap and being stroked. When he’s had enough he has a way of letting you know – which is why we changed the original name we’d given him – Left Patch (imaginative, eh?) to Nibbles.  Chico and Sweetie – even after four years with us – are still quite nervous around humans, but will allow us to stroke them while they are eating.  White Face and Baby Bear – the other two from the second litter – were around for several months before they stopped coming back for their meals.

Black and white kitten

Nibbles at 10 weeks old

Yawning cat

Not a sabre-toothed tiger, but the four-year-old Nibbles mid-yawn.

After the birth of her second litter, Jetta seemed to trust us enough to allow us to stroke her and, if she was in the right mood, pick her up. It wasn’t long before we scooped her up and took her to the vet’s for The Operation. No more kittens for her.

Sadly Jetta is now only a fond memory, as she went off one day and didn’t return. As with White Face and Baby Bear (and Bear from the first litter), we like to think that Jetta went off to find a territory she wouldn’t have to share.

We feel privileged to have had these lovely cats in our lives for the past four years. Here’s to many more – years, not cats!

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015

It’s a Dog’s Life on Mallorca

"All I want is a forever home . . . "

“All I want is a forever home . . . “

If you live in rural Mallorca, as we do, chances are you’ll end up owning a dog. The Boss grew up with dogs and, although he’d never owned one as an adult, I fully expected that we’d soon have a dog after we moved to the island from the UK.

It so nearly happened. During our early time living here, we went out one Sunday morning for a coffee and returned later to find an enormous black dog stretched out in the shade under our bank of solar panels in the back field. And I mean enormous. It looked like a small black horse. But where had it come from?

It had been abandoned. Someone who can’t or doesn’t want to look after an animal any longer takes said dog or cat for a one-way car trip into the country. It’s so cruel, but it happens. Some English neighbours acquired their own little Mallorcan terrier that way.

But we weren’t in a position to adopt this large dog, as we owned two cats we’d brought from England. And this fierce pooch didn’t seem like a potential pussycat pal or pet. When a neighbour strolled down the lane past the field, the creature went ballistic, as though it had been instructed to guard the field.

Seeking Refuge

It was a hot day and we were concerned the dog would dehydrate, so we gingerly walked down the field with some water for it. Luckily we also had a few dog biscuits, as we’d taken to supplementing the diet of a dog in the valley that spent its life chained up on a farm and seemed to survive on leftovers from the owners’ meals.

At that early time of living here we had no idea who to call about this, so we started with the local police – who referred us to an animal refuge. Quite a few phone calls later we finally found a refuge that was prepared to take this big boy (yes, his gender became obvious when he stood up). The refuge van eventually turned up, we gave the man from the refuge a cash donation (feeling a tad guilty that we weren’t able to keep the animal), and the large black dog hopped into the back of the van to begin the next chapter of his life story. Heartbreaking.

Dogs For U

I remembered this occasion recently when I visited Dogs For U – a charity based in the countryside near the Mallorcan town of Inca, and founded by a caring and hardworking German woman called Cornelia Kudszus. Cornelia and her small band of volunteers rescue German Shepherds and other large hard-to-home breeds and look after them until they can rehome them.

I visited Dogs For U last month in connection with an article I’d been invited to write for an off-island magazine. I’ll post the weblink here when it’s published.

In the meantime, if you live on Mallorca – or are moving to the island – and you’d like a dog to share your life, please consider visiting Dogs For U to see if they have a dog that would suit you. Or, if you have spare time and live in the area, perhaps give them a little of your time as a volunteer helper. They always welcome people who are happy to walk dogs, or able to foster a dog for a short period to help ease the workload at the refuge.

There were 18 beautiful dogs there on the day I visited and I’d love to have brought a few home with me, but I don’t think our colony of finca cats would have approved . . .

If you don’t live on the island but love dogs and would like to help Dogs For U financially – feeding and vet’s bills are just some of the ongoing costs – please consider donating just one euro a month (less than the cost of a cup of coffee) to the charity through their microfunding teaming.net page https://www.teaming.net/dogsforumallorca

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015 

Cats Keeping Cool in Mallorca’s Heatwave

It’s 37 degrees Celsius in the shade on the terrace of our finca in rural Mallorca. During the current heatwave (back-to-back with the previous one) our ‘family’ of adopted cats is taking life very easy. They appear each morning for their breakfast, but eat less than usual, then disappear for the day to hide from the sun, until hunger – or habit – draws them back for dinner.

At this time of the year they tend to seek shelter closer to the house, so that their various sources of water for drinking aren’t too far away. Occasionally we spot them in their hiding places. Dusty likes to sit under the turntable (which hasn’t turned for years) that supports our solar panels. It’s a spot that gets no sun at all, and he’s made it his own. Beamer heads for the dependencia, snoozing next to the stock of winter logs. When it’s hot like it is now, it seems unbelievable that we need log fires in the winters . . .

Cooling his ‘Bits’

Our newest cat – little Pip – favours the corner of our dining terrace, settling in a sun-free spot near a large pot plant. And one of her best friends – Nibbles – often joins her. Nibbles (who does occasionally live up to his name) has an amusing habit: in the evenings, when we dine on the terrace, he sits nearby on the wall, with his legs dangling down on either side of the wall. We assume this is to cool as much of his lower body as possible.

Cats sleeping

Pip (left) and Nibbles have found a cool spot on the terrace

Cat lying on a wall

Nibbles chilling out on the wall

All the cats are enjoying the new solar-powered water feature I bought earlier this year. It has become yet another source of water for them. This one has an additional benefit: the fountain seems to give off a fine mist when it’s in operation and when any of the cats comes over to greet us in the evenings, they usually have a light dampness to their fur. They’re clearly enjoying this way of cooling themselves.

Cats need water.

Nibbles drinks from the fountain

And us? We’re spending the heat of the day indoors, with our Birman Minstral, enjoying the benefits of airconditioning. Come the (slightly) cooler evenings, we’re outside – topping up the water in the places where the cats like to drink . . .

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015

Sourcing a Solar-powered Water Feature for our Finca in Rural Mallorca

This time last year I was on a mission: I wanted a water feature for our finca’s dining terrace. And I wanted it to be solar-powered, like our electricity supply. Surely that wouldn’t be hard to find?

The Boss and I scoured Mallorca to find one: we really like to buy local if we can. We were amazed that, on an island where the sun shows its face on some 300 days a year, it appeared that we were as likely to find a solar-powered water feature for sale as we were an igloo. After failing to find a supplier in Spain, via the Internet, we gave up.

A few weeks ago I was searching the Internet for something else for the garden that we couldn’t find locally. Lo and behold, I found a site for a company on the Spanish mainland offering a choice of solar-powered water features. Result!

From the Mainland to Mallorca

We wasted no time choosing and ordering something to add that sound of trickling water that should make us feel cooler during the balmy summer evenings – most of which are spent on the terrace. The fountain arrived pretty quickly and was easily assembled. I say easily, because The Boss did it. Putting together something like a solar-powered water feature comes under the heading of ‘technical’ in my book. And I don’t do technical. At least, not if I have The Boss handy at the time.

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We love it. And so do our cats, who consider it yet another source of water for them around the finca . . .

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015 

Summer Heat in Spring on Mallorca

Boats in Porto Cristo at sunset.

Porto Cristo sunset on May 11, 2015

Spring on rural Mallorca this year has rapidly become summer. We’re reminded that it’s actually still only spring by the singing of the nightingales in the valley throughout the night. Spain – including the Balearic Islands – is experiencing temperatures more common in July and, on the Spanish mainland, it’s set to sizzle up to 40 degrees Celsius by Thursday – when temperatures will be around 15 degrees higher than average for the time of year. Phew.

Although holidaymakers may be loving the hotter-than-average May temperatures, the early heat has had a detrimental effect on our house-and-garden maintenance schedule. It’s too hot to paint the shutters, or do some repairs involving cementing.

Fortunately, between our last visitors and the next ones – my dad and his younger brother, arriving on Thursday – The Boss had time to bushwhack the field. The wild flowers this year were superb, so we left them in all their glory until the heat zapped the last bit of life from them. Then it was time for The Boss to don his safety gear, fire up his bushwhacker, and get to work.

While clearing the field of the long wild grasses he’d cut down, The Boss found a nest of partridge eggs. The parents had not chosen a good location – on the ground at the base of an almond tree – and had subsequently abandoned the nest, which contained 15 cold eggs.

Abandoned ground nest of partridge eggs.

No countryside for young partridges: a nest of abandoned eggs

We guessed the partridge parents-to-be were probably last year’s young, with little idea about choosing a great place to raise their kids. Although it was sad to see the eggs left behind, it was probably as well, given that we have seven cats that spend a lot of time in that field!

Perhaps Mr and Mrs Partridge knew what they were doing after all . . .

Jan Edwards Copyright 2015